22 June 2014 00:00
Lorax and his guests give the audience an inside view of worlds seldom seen or understood: whether it is the impact of drones on life in remote Pakistan, or effects of genetically engineered food. He has also provided a platform for supporters of Anonymous collective to speak out against actions ignored or distorted by media, like “Commander X” detailing how OpIsrael raised a communications network for Palestine under siege.
In the mid-nineteen-seventies, when Christopher Doyon was a child in rural Maine, he spent hours chatting with strangers on CB radio. His handle was Big Red, for his hair. Transmitters lined the walls of his bedroom, and he persuaded his father to attach two directional antennas to the roof of their house. CB radio was associated primarily with truck drivers, but Doyon and others used it to form the sort of virtual community that later appeared on the Internet, with self-selected nicknames, inside jokes, and an earnest desire to effect change.
At the age of fourteen, he ran away from home, and two years later he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a hub of the emerging computer counterculture. The Tech Model Railroad Club, which had been founded thirty-four years earlier by train hobbyists at M.I.T., had evolved into “hackers”—the first group to popularize the term. Richard Stallman, a computer scientist who worked in M.I.T.’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the time, says that these early hackers were more likely to pass around copies of “Gödel, Escher, Bach” than to incite technological warfare.
In 1985, he and a half-dozen other activists formed an electronic “militia.” Echoing the Animal Liberation Front, they called themselves the Peoples Liberation Front. They adopted aliases: the founder, a towering middle-aged man who claimed to be a military veteran, called himself Commander Adama; Doyon went by Commander X.
In the eighties, students at Harvard and M.I.T. held rallies urging their schools to divest from South Africa. To help the protesters communicate over a secure channel, the P.L.F. built radio kits: mobile FM transmitters, retractable antennas, and microphones, all stuffed inside backpacks.
In 1992, at a Grateful Dead concert in Indiana, Christopher Doyon sold three hundred hits of acid to an undercover narcotics agent. He was sentenced to twelve years in Pendleton Correctional Facility, of which he served five.
Netscape Navigator, the first commercial Web browser, was released in 1994, while Doyon was incarcerated. When he returned to Cambridge, the P.L.F. was still active, and their tools had a much wider reach. The change, Doyon recalls, “was gigantic—it was the difference between sending up smoke signals and being able to telegraph someone.” Hackers defaced an Indian military Web site with the words “Save Kashmir.” In Serbia, hackers took down an Albanian site.
In 2003, Christopher Poole, a fifteen-year-old insomniac from New York City, launched 4chan, a discussion board where fans of anime could post photographs and snarky comments. One of the highest values within the 4chan community was the pursuit of “lulz,” a term derived from the acronym LOL. Lulz were often achieved by sharing puerile jokes or images, many of them pornographic or scatological. The most shocking of these were posted on a part of the site labelled /b/, whose users called themselves /b/tards.
Around 2004, some people on /b/ started referring to “Anonymous” as an independent entity.
Barrett Brown, a Texas journalist, has described it as “a series of relationships.” There was no membership fee or initiation. Anyone who wanted to be a part of Anonymous—an Anon—could simply claim allegiance. Despite 4chan’s focus on trivial topics, many Anons considered themselves crusaders for justice.
Read more - The New Yorker: The Masked Avengers - How Anonymous incited online vigilantism from Tunisia to Ferguson.